Preparing a Montessori Home Learning Environment
Thinking about setting up a Montessori home learning environment? This is a fantastic way to reinforce key Montessori principles, foster positive educational habits, and participate in your child’s developmental journey at home. The Montessori concept of “help me to do it myself” is the most important principle to keep in mind when setting up a Montessori home work space for toddlers or preschoolers. For many families, a small environment is the ideal space to begin implementing Montessori at home. The two essentials for any Montessori home environment, are scaled furniture i.e. a child sized table and chair, and a low open shelving unit for materials. Depending on the shelving space you have available, you may choose to use materials from one or more curriculum areas, and rotate them based on your child’s interests.
To set up your Montessori work space, begin by designating a specific area of your home for the furniture and shelving. You may choose to use a rug to outline the space, so that it is marked as a “special” area for learning. When you begin setting up your activities, place all educational materials on a tray before you allocate them a space on the shelf. You should also try to sort activities from easiest to hardest, group them based on their subject matter, and place them from left to right. This layout encourages children to develop an understanding of order, and the structure of the Montessori learning environment. The orientation of materials from left to right also assists children with preparation for reading and writing, and the way that the brain processes information.
When your child begins working in their new Montessori home learning space, show them how to use, and take care of the Montessori materials. This includes teaching your child about using one material at a time, packing away when they have finished with an activity, and keeping their environment clean and tidy. Learning to care for their classroom environment is an important Montessori concept that reinforces important practical life lessons, such as care of self, care for the environment, and respect for others. By establishing strong ground rules from day one, you will encourage your child to be mindful, positively contribute to their environment, and become a productive and proactive learner.
Important Principles in the Montessori Home Environment
• Freedom of Choice: Encourage your child to move freely around their Montessori work space, and choose an activity based on their interests.
• One Work at a Time: Teach your child that they may work with any activity they choose, but that they may only work with one material at a time.
• Pack Away First: Teach your child that they must pack away the material they are working with before they move on to their next activity.
• Grace and Courtesy: Role model situations and scenarios that require good manners i.e. asking: “How do you ask someone to play with you?” or “What do you say when a guest arrives/leaves your house” or “Why do you need to apologise?”
• Keep the Room Tidy: Encourage your child to truly care for their environment by finishing each lesson with a reminder about pushing in their chair, throwing away scraps, bringing food dishes to the kitchen, dusting the shelves, and washing their hands. This will become automatic for your child over time.
• Independence: Set up your work space with low open shelves, so that your child can easily access activities on their own. Try to facilitate your child’s independence, so that they can learn to do and think for themselves.
• Self-Correction: Allow your child the time and space to correct their own mistakes. If they complete an activity incorrectly, or don’t finish at all, do not correct their work. Let them come back to it when they are ready.
• Language Skills: Encourage your child to use their “quiet” inside voice, and use their words to express themselves in a clear and calm manner. Teaching your child to communicate their feelings will help with de-escalating tantrums, and encouraging good manners.
Materials for a Montessori at Home Shelf
The below list of materials is based on items that you may have readily available at home, or that you can purchase at low cost from a variety or dollar store.
• Spooning: Small tray, 2 x small bowls, spoon, lentils/pasta/coffee beans
• Wet Pouring: Small tray, 2 x small pouring jugs, water
• Food Preparation: Small tray, small chopping board, blunt knife, banana or other soft food
• Juicing: Small tray, juicer, cutting board, blunt knife, orange
• Colour Sorting: Small tray, small basket or container, objects with matching colour samples
• Mystery Bag: small tray, small draw-string bag, blindfold, four or more objects with different shapes i.e. toy car, rock, small pine cone, bouncy ball
• Fabric Box: Small tray, small box, pieces of fabric with different textures (same size) i.e. cotton, silk, hessian
• Sensory Basket: Small tray, small basket, themed objects based on a colour or object type i.e. a nature basket may contain pine cones, acorns, large gum nuts, bark, rocks
• DIY Sandpaper Numbers: Small tray, container, number cards (made with thick cardboard, glue, a home-made number stencil/printout, and sand)
• Counting: Small tray, 2 x small baskets, home-made/printable number cards, small matching objects i.e. small rocks, buttons, coins, wishing stones
• DIY Maths Cards: Small tray, 2 x small baskets, home-made/printable numbers, plus, minus, times and divide symbols, a large quantity of matching objects (i.e. buttons for counting practice)
• Length Activity: Small tray, small basket, pieces of pipe cleaner or crayons with different lengths
• DIY Sandpaper Letters: Small tray, container, letters cards (made with thick cardboard, glue, a home-made letter stencil/printout, and sand)
• Sight Word: Small tray, basket, DIY letter blocks (made with blocks and permanent marker or stones and permanent marker), homemade/printable language cards with words and picture
• Language Box: Small tray, 2 x baskets, single letter printouts (laminated), objects that represent with the first letter of the word i.e. “c” is for cat.
• Library: Books that suite your child’s reading abilities
Culture and Science
• Rainbow Jar: Small tray, jar, water, food colouring, baby oil
• Papier Mache Volcano Craft: Small tray, flour and water for glue, plastic bottle, brown paint, red food colouring, vinegar, bicarbonate soda
• DIY Continent Boxes: 7 x plain boxes, laminated continent names, plastic/wooden continent animals, laminated national flags, laminated national foods, national recipes, national songs
• DIY World Map: Tray, large printable world map, small container, continent pieces
Montessori at Home Resource Links: